I've never written down my thoughts on MMO games, so I'm finally collecting my ideas here in a somewhat unstructured format. MMOs are such quirky beasts because payment models, lag, scope, story instantiation and human behaviour put limits on their design. At the same time they have an edge when it comes to world building because a world populated by truly interactive characters (humans) can be very compelling.

I don't yet know what world I'd build for an MMO of my own. A Megaman Legends MMO would be fantastic, but I'll probably use a personal setting for this, perhaps Skeleton Wars. Skeletons would certainly be a playable race. And Goblins. Demon ladies?

"Grell" ... I forgot what for. WoW Gnoll redesign? I made this page in 2015 first, I think. It's 2019 typing this.

W(a)r(b)ath of the Beach King. I've been playing WoW so here are some redesigns I felt like doing and general thoughts. I'd like to drop item levels, and use an overlapping tier system like in C21-online. The item stats simply adjust to the level of the character (WoW heirlooms do?). It declutters item drop balancing and is more manageable in player inventories. In C21 you can bring multiple characters of various levels out on adventures like in Pokémon so trading dropped items between them is fun. Because the items adjust twinking is downplayed but still there.

I don't like stompy feet (malt-cross-shaped bodies) and since the Blood Elves have a floaty thing going on I think the original Arcane Guardian feels a bit too inelegant and goofy. I gave mine hover blade feet.

I think the problem I have with the starter Draenei it is that their outfits coincidentally matches the starter outfits of other races (some late game gear kinda does sci-fi though so it's there in the game as a design element). I think if their ship/onboard suits had been different, the "adaptation to new world" campaign idea would have more oompf to it. I'm thinking something exotic synthetic could've been used. Transparent plastics, maybe fluorescent bits. Or just Starfleet shirts. Not something for combat so they upgrade to local wear later.

OwlBear + Ravager redesigns with less noise.

The Draenei content has many problems... The extreme dimorphism with the "fridge" shaped male feels off. Boring armour/clothes. The Exodar ship is needlessly massive and architecturally random. The NPC areas feel tiny and placed. But I like the general idea of crashed demons, still. So here's a haphazard idea for a Draenei male. I think just swiping native american, maya, or maori aesthetics is lazy, blatant and not interesting, but seeing the pharaohic chin-tentacle got me on that track. Mixed with the very foreign spacey transplastic look it could perhaps look fresh. I could probably adjust the older female concept along those lines to match. I just wanted to do a spacey pastie type outfit there ._. I listened to the Draenei lore and it's game lore alright :G

Experiments. WoW has various Oozes which I guess are alright, but I drew some slime designs of my own.

Ghoul variant exploration. I never liked the kinda goofy models from WC3 and up. The Abomination could have bone mandibles (instead of ribs) and a belly mouth.

Sylvanas Windrunner from WoW. And Dark Magician Girl from YuGiOh.


Val'kyr in high-cut swimsuit. I thought this was what they wore but my graphics setting was just very low.

WoW has a tendency to go for superflous texture and silhouette detail, kinda like this. Very noisy and protudey. The set textures tend to go crazy too, but works better on chunky figures. Detail needs to have a varied tempo (detail clustering, silent areas, soothing repetitions). Not every space needs to be filled evenly.

Not sure how I'd approach WoW pet design for the plain ones like frogs, snakes. It's a balance between cute and looking like a wild natural un-invasive critter. They can't really be stylised like Pokémon. Also, their size & distance in the game affects readability so I think detail has to be kept simple. WoW often just scales down large monsters which I guess is a way to get assets done.

I wish undead horse was more skeletal. WoW could also use a wider range of low-level mounts, but content takes a lot of time to add and tune. It's possible to get off-race mounts with enough reputation grind.

WC3 Archer with chunkier RTS proportions. I think I'd like the Night Elves better if dark skinned (drow) and with less wood elf flair and more Warhammer Dark Elf in Man-o-War with the pointy towers and serpents. Right now their skin tone feels like it's shared by others already.

WC3 buildings at WoW proportions.

WC3 style Orcs, sort of.

Very different take on the Gnomes. Eeeh. Too upright I feel. Maybe they should be small hunched fat people? Maybe WoW wanted to make theirs smaller but scaled them up a bit, given the size of the heads in relation to humans.

Undead near "naked" edit with bandage wraps. I think WoW needs more brown/grey muted armour in general. Characters armour look very haphazard and mismatched, and it's hard to fix early on because there's a steady stream of new better stuff. In C21 items scale to level so you always have more to choose from, plus, you can recolour easily, and even retexture.

Kinda random Exodar ship design, Harlockified. The quests somewhat dictated this design. There are some sites featuring building-like sub-parts, there's the field of ravager crates (from the ship I think). One early quest has survivors which just lay about in the terrain which is odd so maybe the cryo-pod like thing seen in the Exodar inn can be used there.

I think the Draenei kinda borrowed the ship so they wouldn't know how it works, and perhaps it's a magic-driven ship (tons of mages have to desperately keep fueling it (perhaps not knowing how to work it efficiently), looking like the mages holding the various portals open in Stormwind). It would be cool seeing tech-monks trying to figure some of the other tech out.

Thoughts on various MMOs

Ultima Online - Interesting lack of classes and attempt at ecology. Apparently they had to tone the ecology aspect down because people would make many species go extinct. PvP felt real and scary because you could lose so much.

Runescape - I liked the down to earth crafting where bread and iron armour was made somewhat properly from the base ingredients. Good edutainment aspect which could be taken further.

C21-online garage

WoW - Very nice environments and unique locations, especially the Goblin maps & questing. Gameplay however is very plain at free account level. I found myself just rushing between quest markers without reading any text (quests were kind of similar anyways). There was also no reason to care about stores or crafting - I managed to get by "naked" just using weapons from quest rewards. Apparently the "real" content is endgame, but with the restrictions of a free account I can't even sample it. The low level gear (before transmog is possible I guess) looks haphazard and mismatched. Clowngear might be the term used.

C21-online - Best MMO I've played, and it has solved many of WoW's problems. You can buy special currency and play various Gachapons, but there's a monthly allowance of sorts for free players. Gachapon (it's lootboxes I guess) works better in PvE than PvP where people are prone to complain about losing because someone has better stuff/luck/whatever. In C21 some stuff is only found as drops in the wild, so it's a mix. It's a f2p which means there's a sufficient population to keep paying customers attracted as well. It has some of the features described below:


Creating new characters is pretty fun, however, in many MMOs the characters are sort of isolated from each other. In WoW you can have several characters on each server but there's no sense of them being a group. There's some kind of heirloom system in place for twinking. If you find an off-class item drop you can't just slap it on another character afaik. There are probably hidden RNG rules in play (adapting drops to the character), and those can make drops feel artificial.

This is not the case in C21-online where you have a garage full of robots of your design and you can bring five on each excursion. I have hundreds in my garage. It works a bit like the box system in Pokémon and you can twink and speed level your weaker robots as the stronger ones will "carry". If you die, you switch to the next robot. If all die, you go back to the garage and have to pay repair/resurrection cost or switch to other robots. Dying in dungeons will also result in the loss of anything accumulated there (but not what you brought).

If WoW had a system like C21, you'd have an on-screen name like "Household : CharacterName : Guild", and you'd play as the household, really. That's what grows in power. I guess it's not an ideal fit for WoW though, as in WoW each race start zone has some low level story quests and it's enjoyable to play those from scratch... but maybe there's a workaround, like letting new characters join the household at level 15-20 when the major racial intro quests are done and they have proved themselves.

C21-online garage

With the free account I can have up to 20 pages with 18 robots each. I have played for a decade and accumulated hundreds, all unique in some way. Note that the top 5 robots are the ones currently selected for adventuring. In a fantasy setting, the Garage might be a household, or a garrison, with guys strolling about. I think late-game WoW has something like it.

C21-online garage

Drossel, one of my "mains". Parts on the left, stats on the right (individual parts have stats which average to a total or sometimes stack). There are no class or level restrictions when building, instead, part synergy has to be considered. I've coloured the bot myself and also did some light texture re-work. It makes me feel attached to all of my robots, and there's a lot of opportunity to be creative and make a design come together aesthetically.

I'm close to L70 with some robots now, but it took 10 years to get there. In contrast, WoW players spend about a week getting near max level with their "alts". WoW feels undecided in regards to pacing. It's trying to be two things. In C21, even with the powerful twinking available (mainly for lower levels), I think it'd take me much longer to get a single robot to max. However, build parts is more important in C21 than level, and it's an action-shooter MMO so skill plays in too. Even when fooling around with new robot builds, doing some dungeons, finding a gacha (lottery) ticket, you're progressing on an account level rather than just with the character.

Periodic special funds and capsule toys

In C21-online the free account isn't all that limited. Each month you can buy a certain amount of special money (called Mt) using the regular coin money which enemies drop. Prices rapidly increase as you buy more. You also get some Mt for logging in daily or doing events and missions. It can also be bought using real money (and that's how the game is funded).

Mt can be spent on certain items and also in various capsule toy vending machines (containing items and robot parts). It's quite exciting to spend the limited Mt that you've accumulated. Many good parts can only be won in the capsule game, and the randomness of it leads to no player looking alike. A rich player is often just more likely to get good stuff. Random drops work differently because people tend to grind until they get the best thingy. Because the game is more PvE focused and not very competitive it doesn't feel like it's pay to win.

In a creative game like C21 it's good that there is no feasible ultimate state / build. You work with what you get and because no grind can get you more Mt you need not worry or waste your time. It's great that free players get Mt because it gives them a nearly full slice of the game, unlike games where the the majority of the special content is behind a paywall. There's still grind for certain drops and crafting ingredients but it's usually not a big loss when missing out.

If I were to design a similar system, I'd probably put a cap on the amount of Special Money (SM) which could be bought using real money (e.g. +4 times the free amount, 100 vs 500), so paying players won't be in a tier completely of their own making the game unbalanced. Paying players could just buy an amount of SP but it trickles in weekly instead just appearing (providing an incentive to return after a break, to spend the SP). A plain subscription could work too... $10/mo for the extra 400 SP.

Retaining players and reducing monotony

Perhaps daily or weekly events and updates are a double edged sword. They can make me want to stay, but if I miss too much I might feel like I'm lagging behind. The latter situation can perhaps be remedied by engineering the game so it's fun no matter where you at.

I'd like to try two methods for reducing monotony in dungeons and such. First, variation within re-traversible maps/zones, perhaps just minor stuff like a few random enemies or locations, forcing the player to adapt a little. Second, limit the amount of runs (or time window like an hour) so the player can't get burnt out and is looking forward to next time. This way the good stuff can drop a bit more frequently. If a mission is short and infinitely repeatable, with no variation, then it will have to be assumed that some players will grind like mad, and drop rates will have to be adjusted to reflect that, which creates bad obligations for players. From a business point of view, it's better to have players playing a little every day, coming back every day. It uses less bandwidth and with a subscription model you care about monthly payment anyways. Also, a burnt out player which have gone through the content quickly will unsub sooner.

While random loot can be a little nonsensical, I do prefer having some randomness. When every player get the same thing it could lead to samey looking ideal builds. In C21 some bosses drop random parts of itself but also other stuff from a table. In case the boss is a ghost or a bunch of bees it's better to use a treasure chest reward.

Randomly assembled bosses and even general enemies could be interesting. It would make repeated runs more plausible (you're not killing the same guy). In C21 the robots are made from parts, but an organic fantasy setting could probably work in a similar way with frankensteined body parts and gear. Might work for regular enemies so everyone's not a clone. Just two variants for head, torso, legs, arms would go a long way, combined with a colouring system like C21 has (two main colours and a minor colour (each with shades)). It shouldn't be so varied it clutters up the presentation of a clear strategical situation though. The player has to be able to read the game.

One way to not waste low level content, and to give players more variation, is to restrict the player to using a e.g. a low level character for certain missions (events, challenges, special dungeons, etc). C21 does this without problem because your characters travel with you like Pokémon and can be any level.

Other restrictions can be things like race, equipment type, tier or theme, account rank, etc. In C21 you are sometimes given a specific loan-bot for certain missions. It would be nice to be able to create a character which is "low talent", such as a peasant. Certain missions might require a peasant only group. It could be fun to try to make elites out of the peasants, getting the best crappy gear and honing their mediocre skills. Permadeath for peasants and only heroes can respawn?

WoW recently normalised the quest and monster levels. It's convenient but kind of harms the feeling of progression... never being OP or challenged.

In C21 the account itself has a global rank, and this is what locks out content (missions, stores, lottery), not the level of the characters. This means that you can easily twink your new characters using your high level character (or high level gear) and not have to slog through the low level grind like in WoW (heirlooms may speed that up, but it's still not fun I hear, hence the L90 boost). In C21 you can also rebuild your bots (at some cost), so you're not forever trapped by early decisions. Generally you don't do it much because good new robot parts are quite rare and parts scale with levels, being viable longer than in WoW that uses item levels. In a fantasy setting, being able to change the character at a whim could make it feel flimsy and intangible so having gear on longer, but multiple characters for variation is a good solution.

Being able to enjoy all the variation in the game feels like a better solution than skipping it with buyable high level characters. I'm not sure if I would be opposed to having already levelled characters obtainable in game though (rarely). C21 has Robonium items which are consumable XP... I have maybe two million unspent (enough for L1->25 or so) because I can't be arsed to click it all.

It's fun how high rank/rep characters are saluted by NPCs in WoW.

Level scaling

One new-ish feature in WoW as of 2019 writing this paragraph, is normalised enemy levels, i.e. my L20 character gets to fight enemies of the same level. Normally I don't like this kind of rubber-banding, but it could be lampshaded by adding a fuzzy campaign-progress-meter, suggesting that the enemy forces grow more powerful as you progress. The advantage with normalisation is that it provides a larger viable playground. On the other hand, it diminishes the growth power fantasy a bit. Maybe it can be manually triggered?

In C21, each zone has a difficulty level value. Robots at a lower level get more EXP than higher level robots, so it sometimes pays off to include low level robots in your party and re-explore old places. Sometimes a zone requires or encourages the robot being in a certain level range, like 30-40. There are also events which encourage farming in low level zones.

Local fauna / critters

I think small natural critters should move differently from monsters, scurrying from place to place, making them harder to spot (weaker things hiding makes sense and it also makes spotting them rewarding). It differentiates them from monsters which is good for game readability. Visually, I think critters should be geometrically simple and kinda cute, like Pokémon.


One big aspect of variation is to have several things to work on at once, so it's not just about levelling and finding armour bits. In WoW you have the pet and mount aspects, the attempt at garrisons, etc. It's nice to be surprised by something else that you weren't really expecting to find, something which opens up possibilities for new builds and tactics, or role playing. A super rare, general (as in not bound to specific enemies) drop table with a special trumpet notification could be exciting and just knowing it's there adds a sort of anything's possible feel to the game.

Setting up parties

I'm not sure if an MMO has had this feature, but speech bubbles requesting a party, also showing a "CV" of sorts could be used to negate chat spamming. The party creator or mods simply looks around and selects candidates by clicking an accept button in the bubbles.

Guided exploration

To guide player by quests, or allow dangerous free roaming... it's a difficult balance. I think for free roaming to work, the zones need to be clearly marked according to danger. C21 provides a HUD indicator of zone danger with its EXP multiplier (for the active robot). I don't think coloring enemies yellow or red works as good, because by the time you see an enemy it's too late and you're often not sure if you left or entered a zone. Actual warning signs could work if the zone entries and exits are bottlenecked. Something like Link's fairy-whatever could also be used.

Quest icons should reflect both the lengths and difficulty of a quest. Perhaps also whether it's a main quest or side quest. WoW really spammed me with trivial quests and I often rushed through 3-5 ones at a time. Because of this I lost the will to read the quest texts and just followed the map markers instead. Also, with so many quests, recording quest speech audio to play while running is less feasible. Longer quests would make me more likely to stop and take a breather, knowing the text might be actually important. Recording audio also becomes doable. It's not so good for players returning after a break though.

In WoW I found myself paying more attention to the activated quests (opening a quest item found looting). I felt that I found those myself outside the system and thus it became more exciting to pay attention to their story. It would be cool with random (not FAQ/guide'able) Indiana Jones style quests which begin as you find a map, gold statue, whatever. No mindless arrows to follow, and an actual reward for actually caring, and no getting stuck with main plot if you skip.

Recently WoW quests and enemies are normalised to the player's level... it's a solution with its own problems, but it helps to make a wider array of content available as it's always the right level.

I'd be happy to see more regular townsfolk walking about (than WoW has), if the important NPCs were marked more clearly with clothes, stands and buildings, even HUD arrows.

In C21 a lot of the story and reputation rank stuff is done in a special building called the Mission Center. It's like a portal to instantiated self-contained mission regions where some task has to be completed. This reduces complexity a lot. Each (progressively more difficult) planet has its own Mission Center. There are a few quests in the regular PvE world as well.

Unhealthy systems?

Potions and/or regeneration systems in RPGs often make me uneasy. With potions I can get frustrated when I just forgot to click the consume key fast enough. Regeneration on the other hand consumes my time, but because the game does not want to frustrate me I regenerate quite fast. It trivialises the encounters and enemies become frequently respawning blips to plow through. However, there's another system which has been almost abandoned - run back to town to heal.

This town heal system has a few advantages and drawbacks. One advantage is that it makes each excursion feel more real. You'll have to plan a little, and defeating an enemy well becomes an achievement to at least briefly cherish. With fewer enemies around, loot also becomes rarer and more cherished. Enemies can actually drop what they have without overburdening the player.

A drawback is that time is wasted running back and forth (extra frustrating when failing a lot due to bad luck/lag). Perhaps map design and fancy travel methods could alleviate this. Also, with five or so characters to swap in and out, perhaps the problem can be scaled down further. The three systems could also be combined: Potions are consumed during auto-regeneration, but take up a lot of bag space.

If the player is an entity who manages the character group, then I'd probably call the bags "void bags" to imply they are not literal bags carried by any particular character (model may or may not show bags). More void bag space would be rare to find.

Item level, player skill and character level

C21-online is an action game where aim and player movement plays a big role. Good parts are the most important and level is the least important. The parts do increase in strength by level, but in some cases it's not noticeable. More importantly, if you have a part you can use it as there are no level restrictions to building. As a creative player, I'd wish that level mattered a little more and parts a little less so I had more usable parts at my disposal. It's annoying to get a sweet looking part and notice that the stats are garbage. WoW solved the looks problem by transmutation I believe. In C21 you can only alter the texture so players can still recognise which part you're using. This is not true for WoW.

C21-online screenshot. People waiting for an event taking place in the mission center. Everyone have built and colored their bots differently, though the more powerful bots tend to get larger with lots of parts.


In WoW it's difficult as a low level to make nice looking characters. You level up quite fast and just go through whatever quest gear you can find. This detaches you a bit from the almost forcibly changed character, especially when you get a bad looking next-better-item. On top of this the player is restricted by classes. Not really liking the looks of the gear, I mostly played as bikini women and had to make do with the default "naked" texture of the races... When you die it's often not due to being undergeared anyways.

In C21-online you build the robots pretty much any way you want (combining parts) and you can also retexture individual parts ingame in an editor or by loading a PNG. This is so much more fun. If a part looks a bit wonky or color scheme clashes, there's a chance you can salvage the situation with a new texture. Also, you can make hundreds of robots and keep in the garage, and even the junk-parts ones are useful during certain events with part usage limits.

Gear customisation

Because C21 allows twinking new robots with great late-game parts, you don't change the appearance of a robot very often. This gives each robot a more permanent styled "image" that you can fine-tune in the texture editor. The parts scale with level (using an unique curve) rather than being level-locked. Some parts are terrible no matter the level, and some are great early on but so-so later. Many hand-held (not mounted) weapons have a set damage but needs arms powerful enough to wield them (and that scales with level). Parts are ranked/classified according to power and some events put a limit on what you can bring, which is nice as it makes more stuff usable.

On top of this I'd like to try another system, the ability to upgrade even common gear to look a bit more snazzy in case you like the look. Upgrading instead of replacing could also help "image".

First I'd like a coloring system like in C21 (where parts have 3 colors which can be picked from a limited palette). Perhaps the computer needs to bake these colors into a 2D texture clientside and not do it on the fly with shaders or whatever. There would be four layers, Base texture (with metals, leather and natural colors), Color A, Color B, Effect color (fullbright glows, also used for particles). Color A and B layers could have transparency so they can be blended naturally with the base layer. Also, there would need to be a hue aspect so ramps don't look like colorized garbage.

The color layers could simply be mid gray relative and hues are calculated from that, e.g. 134,130,110 is a warm offset. Ramps are built into tables so yellow gets a nice orange gradient to the shadows (or perhaps the gray offsets can be used for this). While this system requires some work, a little work is saved as normally you'd do a few alt textures by hand and upload to player.

Second, if you find say a rusty breastplate, you can restore/polish it for a small sum. If you find a clean one you can grime it up if that suits you better (undead). For a larger sum you can get it ornamented/decorated (there might be a few styles per item, simple texture edits and nothing which requires 3D shapes).

Thirdly, in C21 parts can be improved in two ways: upgrading in the laboratory (using ingredients), and stacking dupes up to 10 for a 2% bonus each. This can make common junk a bit more viable. A similar system could be used where you can reinforce dupes (certain of their stats) by magically merging them. I'm not sure if random enchantments would work with this system. In minecraft you can quickly make the ultimate-state pick axe this way and I don't really like that.

With multiple characters, old favourite items can become hand me downs instead of vendor fodder. That's how it works in C21. There's always a robot which can use an old part.

Classes, builds, specialisation

In WoW and many RPG you traditionally choose a class. While this has an appeal, it also create problems with drops being wasted ("not my class") or drops feeling artificial (personal drops) or arbitrarily restricted (why can't my monk wear this cool plate helmet, really?). Still, I feel characters can't just be general things which can become masters of everything, so some kind of system is needed to sponsor variation. In C21, even though you can combine any parts you like, there are still synergies to consider so it pays off to go for speed, a select damage type or tankyness.

Builds are an interesting approach to classes, meaning, not wearing metal might give bonuses to casting spells (because it upsets the mana flow or whatever). Karate/monk character might need the added agility of cloth for doing fancy kick moves and dodges. Plate is clumsy but gives good protection for tanks. It might be hard to come up with such a system which perfectly produces the typical classes though. Maybe a hybrid could work.

Crafting can be edutainment. Instead of boring artificial wait/farm times, there could be delays caused by actual realistic steps being performed. Maybe peasants are actually good at grunt work like mining, skinning, herbalism, running a player-store, etc, and heroes are best at war related things.

Game difficulty and player engagement

Solving problems efficiently and creatively makes us happy (more so when someone's watching), and games are basically just problems presented to us one after another. I got stat points, where should I spend them to best optimize this character? How do I take down this boss, oh, what if I freeze him and stack poison damage? Where will xXReaper87Xx move next... aha, by reading his playstyle I predict that he will come around this corner in 1.5 seconds so if I fire a rocket there now...

A very easy game probably has chores instead of problems, and they are two different things in terms of satisfaction. If we imagine a number game, writing down all numbers from 1 to 20 on a piece of paper (and getting a reward) might take as long for some to solve as a 0 1 3 6 10 15 ?? puzzle, but the latter is more satisfying to solve for a (novice) numberphile. Now, people might still choose the easier task but this does not mean they made a good choice in terms of having fun. Giving them the option as a game designer might be a bad idea. Difficulty sponsors collaboration and social behaviour, which is something an MMO should do well, but I guess it can also be a source of frustration.

Non-freemarket item trade in a MMO environment?

This section is more of a random thought experiment and might not be relevant.

Political opinions aside, this is an interesting design problem to tackle. In a lot of MMOs there's either NPC stores which pays little, gobbling up items, or player-player manual trading which is often a lot of waiting & labor, or an auction house. Auction houses run the risk of getting scalpy and cartel'y. I've always wanted to see something like an NPC run store which players can use for item trade. I think it would need some special features for it to not work like a free-market store though.

First we need a global store with set prices. In real life, you can see auction listings which say "Rare Mint Fully working" and it's just words and a price someone typed in. An MMO world is not at all like the real world because it's possible to implement an omniscient, omnipotent system of trade which can not be circumvented. Prices can probably be roughly calculated from various intimately known variables, such as quality (there are no Mona Lisas, just items with stats), and the time it takes to acquire an item (run time, drop rate, difficulty). On top of this, the server and GMs are omniscient and all farming and transactions, or lack thereof, can be graphed, allowing prices to be adjusted in certain cases.

A newly sold item will be invisible ("processed") by the store for a random amount of time (up to a day?). This prevents players from arranging risky trades (or scams) by making items available at an arranged time. Once an item becomes visible, anyone gets a chance to nab it using a pre-order system.

Any player can pre-order items which have become visible, but the winner will be determined randomly after a few hours, and any losers will get their funds returned. This to make it even harder to arrange personal trades and sniping. If buying multiple copies (limited by item rarity), I guess there will have to be a pass of all buyers per copy, until stocks are depleted or there are no more buyers. Perhaps a player can let the order remain until the next copy becomes available, so there's no need to keep an eagle eye on the store.

One possible exploit: The server can't see which human is behind which computer, so someone with multiple accounts would have a bigger chance of getting an item, though with no way to transfer safely between accounts. Those accounts will need to have usable characters.

If no one have bought the item after the pre-order period is over, the item goes to a part of the store where items can be bought instantly by anyone. Very common items can go directly there. Perhaps an NPC population consumes certain items, preventing them from piling up.

Players also have somewhat limited item storage space and perhaps a limited weekly purchase limit (a certain number of items, perhaps from each cost tier). This makes it less feasible for rich players to raid the store and hoard items in an attempt to make other players less powerful (or just to be assholes).

This system will also make it harder (impossible?) to "twink" a friend's character since things can't simple be given away for free - they have to pass though the store. However, a single player could have multiple characters with access to the same storage area and transfer between those. I think in that case, the incentive for trading at all will be pretty low as you'd rather use the valuable item on one of your many developing characters... so ultimately this store idea is not relevant. It would combat e.g. third party item & gold selling, but not account selling.

Art by Arne Niklas Jansson